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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Diving the Moon a Little Too Fast!

Don't just conquer the moon... Dive it!

How I just love video game titles... When I saw the gameplay video for Moon Diver by feelplus for the PlayStation 3 while browsing the PlayStation Store this evening, I knew immediately that I have to play the game. I skipped right past the demo - something that I normally would never suggest for anyone, including myself, to do - and inducted it into my Game Library. Moon Diver is an action-platformer made by the creator of Strider and the gameplay similarities are there like the constant platforming and the bladed melee attacks. There are several characters you can choose from, each with their own unique advantages, and the game can be played online with 3 other participants. I do like the 2D gameplay design and the classic feel of the game but I am a bit disappointed with the graphics - some of the textures look really, really bad... Like PSOne bad and they sometime dominate a huge bulk of the screen. The one really fascinating thing about this game is its level-up system. You get experience points killing baddies in the game and you can level up your character. Your progress carries over each time you play the game. I have only played a little bit of the single player to get myself familiarized with the controls. I hope the multiplayer is going to be a blast. Click here to learn more about Moon Diver.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

PlayStation Rewards: Unrewarding

In October of last year, I got invited into the beta of the PlayStation Rewards Program. Today, I received the following message in my email, notifying the members that the beta will be ended tomorrow and that Sony has decided not to roll this program out to the public at this time:

Saw that coming a million miles away...

Well, I really can't blame them for that decision because this program is quite frankly unremarkable, uneventful, and horrifically unrewarding. Actually, Sony can be blame for how sad the program truly is because they have spent too much effort on the PlayStation Plus that this has become nothing else but a forgotten experiment. The biggest flaw with the program is that the progress bar that is supposed to get filled up by doing "quests" (dull tasks involving your usage of the system and its features) and buying games for the system was not working throughout the duration of the beta. Though there was a section of the Rewards webpage that listed the quests you have completed - which in itself took a very long time to get updated - it was impossible to see how close or far away you are from reaching the next level of the program's tiered membership.  There were a couple of sweepstakes with nice prizes like a chance to win a Sackboy statue and trips to a variety of events but other than those things, the program offered little to none when it comes to keeping itself alive and exciting. Oh well, at least I am getting a free t-shirt from this. Will the program ever see the light of day? I doubt it since people keep paying money for that stupid PlayStation Plus membership just to get rewarded by Sony...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Darkspawn... I Mean, Darkspore!

Darkspore is the latest title from developer Maxis but unlike the game that it originated from, the evolution-simulation Spore, it combines both the creature customization features of the original and the addictive dungeon crawling, stat-boosting mechanics of an action role playing game. Slated for a late April 2011 release, the beta is now open to all Steam users and it is playable until this Friday at noon so it's a good time to finally open a Steam account for those Personal Computer owners who still don't believe in the service because this game is truly worth your time.

Ah... A refreshing paint bath.

You play as one of the surviving Crogenitors who must battle the creation-gone-wild Darkspore that has wiped your DNA-obsessed species to near extinction by using your genetic heroes. There is a grand total of 100 of these heroes that you can unlock, each with their own unique looks and special abilities. You can command up to a squad of 3 heroes that you can swap on the fly - there is a cooldown for swapping however - and beam down to different locations that serve as the game's dungeons. You can go on your adventure alone or play with 3 other players online, which is how this game is really meant to be played. As you progressed through the dungeons, you get to level up your heroes individually and pick up loots to equip on them. Just like Spore, you can customize the looks of your heroes. A lot of the equipments that you can attach to them can be physically altered as well. The basic build of the heroes' bodies cannot be altered however because apparently, Maxis wants to ensure that each of the 100 heroes can still be recognizable even after they are visually-altered by the players. Don't let that dissuade you from the game however: I have seen a couple of impressive looking modifications of the same hero so it is definitely possible to make your own unique-looking creations. The heroes are classified by elements and they adhere to familiar RPG classes like tanks, healers, and the likes.

A boss fight awaits you at the end of each dungeon.

The game has a player-versus-player mode as well but it's only unlockable when your Crogenitor hits level 10 - I am currently at level 9. It's basically an arena-based battle between teams that carries the same gameplay from the campaign - you select three heroes to bring with you to the battle to defeat your opponent's heroes. It's somewhat like a lite version of multiplayer online battle arena games because of the hero-combination focus but without the need to worry about levelling up nor defending the base during the bouts. So far, I am really enjoying this beta. Improving upon your heroes, both in their looks and their stats, is very addicting. There's a lot of content available in this beta as well with the campaign stretching all the way up to 9 levels. I am certainly convinced that I do want the game when it is finally released. One thing is for sure: it will definitely make that wait for Diablo III a lot easier. Unless of course Blizzard decides to release that game in 2020... Which is quite possible.

FIRST IMPRESSION: 4 out of 5

Monday, March 28, 2011

Games Played 03/21/2011 - 03/27/2011

- 03/21/2011 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
Eye Toy: Kinetic - PlayStation 2

- 03/22/2011 -
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds - PlayStation 3

- 03/23/2011 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City - NDS
Eye Toy: Kinetic - PlayStation 2

- 03/24/2011 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City - NDS

- 03/25/2011 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC

- 03/26/2011 -
Polarium - NDS
Onimusha: Blade Warrior - PlayStation 2

- 03/27/2011 -

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Double Japanese Movie Sunday

What better way to spend half of a Sunday besides running out to pick up the Nintendo 3DS for some of you than to chill out with a couple of crazy Japanese movies over Netflix's HD stream. I watched two of them back to back - alone by the way since my significant other was away - and while the first one almost made me doubt that I was doing the right thing this afternoon, at least the second movie brought the whole session into a rousing close.

First on the list was Robogeisha, a 2010 movie by Noboru Iguchi. Perhaps the most fascinating things about Japan to me - second to its video gaming revolution - are the geisha so I expected that this movie was going to be entertaining from the get go. As if that wasn't enticing enough, the promise of a cyborg geisha made me very giddy inside. Unfortunately, this movie fell short when it tried to take itself a little too seriously, deviating from its ridiculous premise and hilarious beginning.

Robogeisha tells a story of two sisters who got kidnapped by a secret organization that trains geisha into deadly assassins. These geisha assassins are then tasked to kill off targets who are deemed to be a threat to Japan. Things are not what they seem however and eventually, the sisters found themselves being altered with robotic parts... mostly for their own satisfaction. But enough about the plot. When you are watching about a movie called "Robogeisha", you want to see some sick and sexy action but sadly, despite some creative weaponry like swords that stick out of the geisha's armpits and buttocks, the fight scenes are mostly boring and the bad special effects are way overused. I don't expect to see expensive, Hollywood quality CGI when watching a Japanese movie but its implementation here went beyond cheesy and into the real of lazy. There are a couple of interesting blood-gusher scenes but the when you use CG blood explosions, make sure to at least dab some blood on the corpses afterwards.

The real problem with this movie however is the inconsistent storytelling. There was this "sibling rivalry" theme in the movie that really brought the level of fun and energy of the movie down because it was suddenly turned into "sisterly-love" right before your eyes leading towards the rather somber climax. If the film just stayed as a nonsensical action/comedy, it would have worked better. Seeing the sisters fight each other was fun, but seeing them pretend to care about each other was not and actually seeing the movie trying to create an emotional situation out of nothing was just bad. [RATING: 2 out of 5]

Next was the 2009 film directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura and Naoyuki Tomomatsu called Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl and yes, the whole thing is as kick-butt as its title implied. This movie was obviously inspired by the Twilight films but it is a lot more fun than any of the films from that series combined - yes, I do watch the Twilight movies. Instead of a moody vampire guy with sparkles on his skin, we are presented with a vampire girl in the form of a new high school transfer student. She becomes interested in the most popular guy in school and later took him away from his "girlfriend"  rather aggressively. The girlfriend retaliated of course and that eventually lead to her death and resurrection... Then, you guessed it, the two fight once again to claim the man that they both so desperately want to keep for themselves.

The setup is rather straightforward and this movie is filled with extreme gore. The vampire girl isn't dainty and that is what makes the movie endlessly fascinating. The way she fulfills her desire for blood is very disturbing and even though she is made to be the heroine of the tale, there's just something about her that is just not good. The daily high school life presented here is definitely not realistic with things like the wrist-cutter club and a borderline offensive club for girls who are into a sort of "reverse Michael Jackson". Speaking of the wrist-cutter club, there is a must see movie moment of a wrist-cutter drive that is just an absolute riot to watch, especially with the way that the event ended.

Vampire Girl is a goofy romance with just a hint of sappiness. It is more of a horror comedy with a nasty twisted ending too that was really well thought of. The movie doesn't rely too much on CGI unlike Robogeisha and the extremely bloody moments manage to be cheesy, sickening, and shocking all at the same time. Who needs the realism of young love when you can have a bloody massacre from your vampire film, right? [RATING: 4 out of 5]

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The 3DS Headeache and Hedonism

The Nintendo 3DS is being released tomorrow here in North America and I know that there are a lot of excitement behind this new handheld from Nintendo but I will not be purchasing it any time soon. I have always been an early adopter when it comes to new gaming devices - and that includes Microsoft's Kinect for the Xbox 360 - and this will be the first time that I will actually wait for a newer version of the device before I will start investing in it. The reason behind this is simple: Nintendo is guaranteed to upgrade upon the build of the 3DS as exemplified by the 2 major revisions that was implemented the Nintendo DS in itself - from regular, to Lite, and then to the DSi.

Don't worry my DS Lite. You will still be in service for a little while longer.

I'll be honest with you, as a person who felt compelled to purchase the first DS and then the Lite where you can finally see the system's awesome graphics, I was quite offended when the DSi was released because apart from its predecessor, it featured the ability to download digitally distributed games - I really didn't care about the camera, it was never capitalized upon software-wise and it was really just a gimmicky accessory. This created a divide between DS owners and DSi owners and such a gap is normally marked by a brand new hardware generation and not from a new model of the same system. I have a feeling that the same thing will happen with the 3DS. That 3D technology of the top display is probably going to be improved upon  and the short battery life is definitely going to be fixed. I also have a feeling that Nintendo will implement a second analogue stick at the bottom right hand corner of the handheld. They would be crazy not to because it will open up more control options for the system and Sony is doing it on their upcoming "Next Generation Portable". So yes, I am going to wait on the 3DS. I just hope that the new model will be announced soon: probably in the next 3 to 6 months. Thankfully, there are not a lot of games that I really wanted for it at the moment and that will make the wait a lot easier I am sure.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Origins with an End

It looks like my recent attempt to complete Dragon Age: Origins for the Personal Computer was a success! I have finally gotten to the end of the game! I felt quite exhausted after experiencing the several major events leading up to the finale because of how powerful they were in the context of the storyline... Some provided moments of pure satisfaction while some resulted in true disgusts. Bioware loves forcing you to make some really difficult decisions. Anyway, the ending for me was somewhat bittersweet but that is only because throughout the long journey, I have learned to love the characters whom I travelled with. I do have the Awakening expansion so I should probably check that out soon and I hope that it will be as engrossing of a gaming experience as the main game was.

I believe the last game that took me this long to finish was Xenogears on the PlayStation.

60%? You can't be serious!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

LoL: A New Venture

Today, I have decided to start playing Ranked Matches in League of Legends for the Personal Computer. I avoided this for the longest time now - my assumption was that if people can get really rude in the Normal matches, things would be two-thousand times uglier in Ranked but apparently that's not the case... Then again it's probably I am being matched with those who just started to play this mode. What I do like about the Ranked Matches is the "Draft Pick" in which each team is given two champions to ban and then the players take turn picking up the champions to play from the ever decreasing roster. I wish that this is enabled as an option in the Normal matches because I hate duplicate champions. Since I am not a part of a pre-made team, I am just joining the solo queue so things do get hectic during the champion selection process: a lot of unnecessary drama with a lot of players who like to argue about the picks instead of strategically discussing the situation. I plan to play in Ranked more from this point forward but I sure hope that I can get a regular team going in the near future.

This particular match didn't end well for my team and there was a lot of arguing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Qoga: Don't Hate the Player & Don't Hate the Game!

I spent several hours playing Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel by Gust for the PlayStation 3 last night as well as a little bit today and oh my galaxy, this game is funny. Qoga is most certainly not for those easily offended because of its tasteless contents but I found myself laughing at the dialogues and even one name of a location early in the game because of how hard the game tried to make them obviously sexual. I have a really dry sense of humor but I can appreciate blatant, in your face jokes like those found here. I just started the game and Qoga is shaping up to be the most energetic in the series in terms of its atmosphere.  I was expecting the entire game to use 3D polygonal graphics but the towns are actually made of static but high resolution 2D images that zooms in and out stylishly, so at least they can look quite dramatic. I just wish there are more background movements in these scenes, maybe some fancy light effects to sweeten things up.

They actually managed to combine two things that don't go very well together...

Story-wise, you play as a steeplejack named Aoto who accidentally found a Reyvateil (artificially created females who can use song magic) in trouble and he decided to help her out from being captured by the army. The Reyvateil Saki seems to suffer some memory lost but it is apparent that she is a special Reyvateil because of her, uhm, intriguing ability to turn people into something... quite... delicious. The main plot itself isn't that gripping but the lively conversations between the characters keep everything moving at a brisk pace. The battle scenes are quick as well as fun and there is hardly any loading time going into and out of them. I am sure that not all of the battle options have not been opened up yet where I am at but basically, you can freely move around the 3D battlefield while your Rayvetail sings in the back. Hitting the enemy rhythmically alongside your Rayvetail's "high notes" will increase her song magic and grant you passive bonuses. I am curious however why you have to activate the Reyvateil special move by holding down a button on the controller and then shaking it... Gust is trying hard again. The Reyvateil is vulnerable to attacks however and when an enemy focuses on her, you must protect her. The battle mechanics is as effortless as the previous two games - a little easy but definitely fun nontheless. So far, the game hasn't disappointed me yet and I hope that it will continue to surprise me all the way until the end.

And that, my friends, is how you motivate a stripper.

Strip or death? You decide!

FIRST IMPRESSION: 4 out of 5

Monday, March 21, 2011

Qoga? Ar Ciel? Who? What? Where?

I have a pretty interesting history when it comes to the first two Ar Tonelico games released for the PlayStation 2. They were games that I didn't play until a little later after their induction dates and when I was finally really deep into the first game, Melody of Elemia, while playing it on my PlayStation 3, the console died on me. I then skipped right to the sequel, Melody of Metafalica, because I decided to get a new PS3 and the save file for the first game is still hiding deep inside my dead PS3. Mid-way through playing that, I stopped because I missed the characters from the first game and I wanted to wait until I finish that first game before I would proceed. Yeah, maybe I need to go see a shrink. Thankfully, with my recent success with going back to Dragon Age: Origins, I know I can just go back to that save file for the Metafalica and continue it until I get to the end.

But what's this? It looks like Metafalica has to wait for a bit because today, the third game, Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel for the PlayStation 3, has been inducted into my Game Library. No, please don't ask me about that title. Not sure why they bothered changing that title from the Japanese version (translated to English as "Ar Tonelico III: The Girl's Song that Pulls the Trigger of World's Demise") but I suppose maybe it will make a lot more sense once I start playing it. [Update Note: Just booted up the game - Ar Ciel is apparently the planet where the story takes place. I have fogotten about it from the previous games.] Developed by Gust, Qoga is a role playing game that contains a heavy emphasis on item synthesis and more importantly, a trademark of the Ar Tonelico series, the relationship-building between your character and the game's heroines. I see that this third game finally got a "M" ESRB rating - I seriously think Metafalica should have been rated the same - which should be appropriate because judging from my experience from the first two games, it will be packed with sexual overtones. The relationship building I mentioned earlier is accomplished by "diving" into your fellow heroines so yes, you get the idea. Let's see how bad things will get in this game when it comes to whole sexual nastiness. Qoga is the first in the series that uses 3D character models and the battle is real time instead of turn-based. Overall, I am can't wait to get into the game since I haven't played a traditional Japanese RPG in a while. By the way, the game is released in a special large cardboard box and it contains a nice hardcover "Visual Book" and a music CD.

The box may look really nice...

...but I can guarantee that you will hate trying to open it.

In the Ar Tonelico world, "less is better" when it comes to the clothing.

Janna This and Janna That!

There are 72 unique champions in League of Legends for the Personal Computer. Just think about that for a moment. Sure you can just jump on any champion that you have unlocked - I have 52 available to be selected so far, got to keep farming those Influence Points - but to play them well means that you have to keep playing the same champion for a long period of time. Throughout my "career" of playing this game, which is a total of about 1 year and 1 month, I have only been really attached to several champions out of that huge number. The thing is however, one is required flexible enough to pick from a variety of champions to be helpful with the overall team composition so I do try to change it up every so often. The most prominent champions that I have been obsessed with are Nidalee and Evelynn. It looks like now, I can add another to that list.

The hair may be a little scary but everything else about Janna is incredible.

Enter "The Storm's Fury" Janna, a support champion who is really fun to control. Her "Howling Gale" ability, which summons a tornado that travels in a line, is an extremely effective tool during team fights because it causes so much disruptions to the enemy team. Besides its damage potential, the tornado knocks anything in its path up into the air and couple this with cooldown reduction items, this ability disables your enemy team quite severely. It is also a great tool for chasing down enemies as well as escaping from them. Then, there's her "Eye of the Storm" ability that can shield friendly ally, herself, and even a friendly turret! This shield grants attack damage increase to anyone she bestowed it upon while protecting them from damage. There were countless times that I protected allies from death during team fights by keeping them repeatedly shielded as the enemy was just pounding away, lusting to score a kill - it is very satisfying to see them getting so close to killing but ended up being killed themselves!

Still, it is Janna's ultimate called "Monsoon" that fascinates me the most: It pushes any enemy within its large circular area of effect outwards while healing her teammates who are close by. The most intriguing part to this ability is its many uses (and the fact that it is also pretty). Janna has to channel the spell to keep the healing part going but the channeling can be cancelled at any time. Thus, it can be used to just quickly push back enemies and separate them from each other. When I first started playing Janna, I focused too much on Monsoon's ability to knock back enemy towards my teammate but that usually ends badly because I would place her in a vulnerable position in front of my team. For the most part now, I only use the separation impact when it is safe and for the most part, I just use the ability to turn the tide of battle by pushing away enemies during a team fight and healing my comrades. I mostly play damage dealers in this game before but now, I am beginning to enjoy the rewards of playing support. She has been the only champion I have played the past week and I don't think I will be playing someone else for a while unless I really have to.

Triggering Monsoon deep inside the enemy base to assist a teammate.

Curious about League of Legends? This addictive game is truly free to play - there is no hidden payment requirement whatsoever! Sign up for your free Summoner's account by clicking here!

Games Played 03/14/2011 - 03/20/2011

- 03/14/2011 -
King Arthur: The Role-Playing Game Wargame - PC

- 03/15/2011 -
Dance Factory - PlayStation 2
Dragon Age: Origins - PC

- 03/16/2011 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC

- 03/17/2011 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
Left 4 Dead - PC

- 03/18/2011 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
Monday Night Combat - PC

- 03/19/2011 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC

- 03/20/2011 -
Dragon Age: Origins - PC
Rock Band 2 - X-Box 360

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stealing as Gameplay Extender?

I got into a discussion about Dragon Age: Origins with a friend earlier today and when I told him that I am 70+ hours into one of my characters, he was shocked. It took him about fifty hours to finish the game and he claimed that he did a lot of the side-quests so we started to compare notes in regards to our in-game activities. Of course with a deep game like this, the gameplay mileage will vary between players depending on how involved he or she is in the role-play. The one funny thing that came up during our conversation was my obsession with being a pickpocket in the way of the rogue character Leliana. Every time I enter a new area, I ensure that I pickpocket everyone. Since the ability has a 10-second cooldown, sometimes I do find myself standing still in a populated area waiting for the ability to refresh before proceeding to the next available victims. Pickpocketing is not that profitable of a venture even though it is extremely time consuming but obviously I am addicted to it. Thankfully, I am not obsessive compulsive enough to try to pickpocket again when I go back to the areas that I have visited before - it can only be done once per person anyway - though I sometimes pickpocket a non-player character a couple of times when the ability fails... I wonder if I actually spent hours stealing from people in this game.

Stealing from the poor makes the whole thing a lot more fun!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Riot Games' Continual Community Focus

Riot Games has done it again! They really want the League of Legends community to continue to get better (the game is full of players with nasty attitudes but it's improving on a daily basis)  by pushing a new "agreement" option that will affect the visibility of postings in the game's official forum. Players can log on to their profiles on the website and agree or disagree to accept the game's Summoner's Code that lists the positive traits that players need to adopt while playing the game. If a player decided to not abide to the code, their forum posts will be greyed out. Perhaps the most fun thing about this is that you can now easily tell the people out there who are really not in line with creating a fun, friendly, and respectful environment for the game. It looks like no negative ramifications will come from not agreeing other than the way your text looks but I think that Riot is just going to catch these people once they have been reported from other players for not abiding to the code. They are also probably trying to get a better look at the behavioral divide within the community but I think perhaps they should implement something similar to this in the actually game client instead of this thing only affecting the forum users. Still, this is such an amazing commitment to keep the community clean... I don't think I have ever seen such a determination in the industry before! Love it!

These are very reasonable... unless you are a real jerk!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Monday Night on a Thursday Evening

As someone who is completely obsessed with "multiplayer online battle arena" games like League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, and Demigod for the Personal Computer, Monday Night Combat has caught my eyes ever since its initial release on the X-Box 360 last year. I almost got it on that platform until I heard the rumors that the PC version was in the works. The game hit Steam in late January of this year and today, I finally inducted it into my Game Library. Monday Night is basically another Defense of the Ancients clone where two teams are pit against one another in an arena and the team that gets to destroy the enemy "base" wins the match. Each team is assisted with waves of bots that automatically proceed towards the opposing team's base and the game is all about making sure that you kill the enemy bots or players as well as improve your own character and base to eventually overwhelm your opponent's team. The most intriguing thing about Monday Night is that the game is more of a third person shooter compared to the top down view, point and click setup typical of the genre. Despite that innovation, the number of characters available is small however - there are only 6 classes in all. The game is currently free to play until 1pm PST this Sunday via Steam and it is on sale for $9.99 until next Monday. Because of the free weekend play promotion, the download for the game is mighty slow right now because everyone is trying to get the game. It is only about 2GB in size but the download bar says that I still have two and a half hours more to go... Ouch!

At this rate, I may have to wait until Monday night before the game is fully downloaded.

Origins: Lesson Learned

A couple of days ago, I started playing Dragon Age: Origins again on my Personal Computer and instead of doing the usual fresh start routine that I normally do when I go back to a long abandoned game, I jumped straight back to my old save file. I suppose whenever I attempted to do this with an adventure game or a role playing game before, I was just not persistent enough because now with Origins, I feel like I have never left the game. Of course they are little details in the storyline that I have forgotten about and a good amount of subtleties in the play mechanics that have escaped me but as I added another 10 hours into my character over the past couple of days (she has a total of 60+ hours now under her belt!), those things are slowly coming back to me. It is easy to see now that it is more problematic to start at the very beginning in a situation like this like I did quite often in the past because sometimes, going over the same stuff again is not that motivating and things could easily slip into the realm of boredom, rendering the game less playable. The best way to play a game of course is to stick to it until you are done with it but that normally doesn't bode well with me because of my ever-changing mood and interest. I just have to remember from this point forward that it is okay to continue a game that I haven't played in a while from where I left off because I probably wouldn't be able to even get to the point where I stopped playing if I started again from the very beginning.

Grey Warden Ingrid getting ready to pulverize some dirty dwarves.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Randomly Playing Dance Factory

Dance Factory: Dance to Any Music CD (2006)
Platform: PlayStation 2
Induction Date: 08/30/2006

Who knew that the Days of Open Hand CD contains such a creepy monster deep inside of it.

Before the arrival of Microsoft's Kinect, dancing video games primarily involve quick stepping onto rough plastic mats while matching the placement of your feet based on the arrow orientation shown on your television screen. Konami did all the works to make this popular with their Dance Dance Revolution line-up - and oh, I have so many of those in my Game Library. If you like DDR and its copycats, Dance Factory is the ultimate version of the game because it allows you to dance to your own music CDs so you are no longer stuck with the music given to you on any of those other releases. The automatic routine creator works really well as it will move you properly to the beat of the music but as if that wasn't enough, you can also create the "dance steps" yourself! The game also includes a puzzle game that was meant to give you something to do while the game analyzes your music CD: You basically rotate ever-increasing cubes of different colors to avoid them from color-matching. It's actually quite boring and I rather do something else like a quick run to the bathroom while everything is being prepared. Dance Factory also has a "monster" feature where you can extract unique monsters from your music CDs - just like Monster Rancher! - or customize your own ugly creation. The monster will then uh, dance with you in the background! The only bad thing about this game is that the presentation is quite basic and it could have benefited from a more flashy, dynamic visual design like those found in the DDR series. The game does offer the opportunity for Eye Toy play which adds hand movements into the gameplay and this mode replaces the background with the video feed from the camera. Still, it is cool to have a DDR game that will continue to get better as your music collection expands though this didn't stop me from getting Dance Dance Revolution Supernova a month later.

LIBRARY STATUS: 4 out of 5

Dragon Age: Origins Once Again

In December of last year, I tried to get myself to complete Dragon Age: Origins but that attempt was a total failure - I only managed to play it during a total of only 3 days that month with the creation of a new character. The funny thing about leaving one game for a while is that when you come back to it, the subtleties of the play mechanics are most often lost so I always find myself starting that game again from the very beginning. The real problem with Origins with me when I first played it in 2009 was that I made too many characters and I switched around between them at odd intervals though I did manage to get very attached to my darling Ingrid, the all-awesome Champion/Berserker princess. Yeah, she shares the same name as my Shepard from Mass Effect 2 and of course, she does have her paws all over Alistair... I did eventually delete several of my low levels characters and to this date, I am left with 3 characters in all.

All right gang, it is time we end this stupid blight!

I am not in a hurry to jump into Dragon Age II - the story in that game is not a continuation anyway and I am thinking of waiting for that ultimate all-DLC included edition - but I can't just abandon Origins any longer. I have a total of 100+ hours spent on this game and Ingrid herself is nearing that 50-hour mark. I believe that she is pretty close to the end of the journey. I thought that it was time to try something different: Instead of continuing with the new character from December, I decided to force myself to continue with Ingrid. The experience was rather disorienting, especially when I looked at the crazy amount of abilities on her action bar but I believe that I was off to a good start. For one, I didn't have to play around with the tactic slots as long as I keep my current party member configuration - Alistair as the off-tank, Leliana as the ranged damage-dealer, and Wynne as the support healer. Speaking about Wynne, isn't she not one of the best healers in a role playing game ever? I have them programmed very effectively before I left the game apparently because when I got into my first battle, they all performed incredibly well compared to me as I was clicking my abilities at random. So, here we go again, the ultimate struggle to complete Dragon Age: Origins. I sure hope that it will work out this time around.

After 100+ hours, I have only completed 40% of the game content?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Games Played 03/07/2011 - 03/13/2011

- 03/07/2011 -
Pokémon: SoulSilver Version - NDS
Risen - PC

- 03/08/2011 -
Neverwinter Nights 2 - PC
Pokémon: SoulSilver Version - NDS
Zeno Clash - PC

- 03/09/2011 -
Neverwinter Nights 2 - PC
Pokémon: SoulSilver Version - NDS

- 03/10/2011 -
Neverwinter Nights 2 - PC

- 03/11/2011 -
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds - PlayStation 3

- 03/12/2011 -
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds - PlayStation 3
Pokémon: SoulSilver Version - NDS
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II Retribution - PC

- 03/13/2011 -
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds - PlayStation 3
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II Retribution - PC

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Point to Pathos - Chapter 1, Part 2

     Jupiter didn't have a large selection of feminine outfits, nothing out of the ordinary there. As life went on aboard the Staroam-5, the visual distinctions between men and women when it came to the daily attires both in the professional field and the casual environment had been extinguished almost entirely. Still, the images of women in provocative dresses can be seen in the entertainment field, especially when it came to the period pieces involving life on Earth. The shift was not determined by function however, but it was due to sterilization rather.

     Jupiter put on her favorite yellow blouse and a pair of dark blue jeans as Clac stepped out of the cleaning space. She handed him a blue t-shirt and his comfortable khaki shorts. When he was all dressed up, they both stepped out of their apartment together into the narrow hallway lined up with several dozen doors that lead to the settlement chambers of couples just like the two of them. They lived on the second floor and they took the elevator all the way up to the roof exit. They then boarded Clac's transporter and quickly drove away onto the suspended traffic. Jupiter looked out of the window to stare at the metallic grey box that they called home as it quickly faded away from her view, hidden behind taller compartments of similar shapes that housed both the population and the mechanical units needed to sustain the Staroam-5 thrusters.

     "You know, the guys at work did it again today," Clac said suddenly.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Retribution is at Hand

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution for the Personal Computer has been inducted into my Game Libray this evening. This is the second standalone expansion for the Dawn of War II game, which I really love for its revolutionary single player campaign that plays less like your typical real time strategy game because you get to control a team of unique hero units. This time around though, the game implemented non-hero unit recruitment in the campaign, perhaps to satisfy the more hardcore fan of the game. The most exciting thing about Retribution is the ability to play through the story from a selection of six factions instead of just one and that should extend the replayability of the game. I am going for play as those psychic Eldars first since they have always been the coolest looking group in the game to me. I am disappointed that they don't have a lot more hero units to choose from for the Last Stand mode but perhaps I have to unlock them? Got to keep playing the game.

Oh no, this image just reminded me of my fogotten Seraphim!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Not Related to Two Worlds II

I finally have Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds inducted into my Game Library today. I opted for the PlayStation 3 version for two reasons. The first should be quite obvious: I no longer have X-Box Live Gold so I want that free online versus mode. The second is more of a bonus: the PS3 version is slightly superior to the X-Box 360 release because it doesn't have any screen tearing. The lack of characters compared to the second game is definitely disappointing and that still disturbs me to no end but the graphical jump - well, it's been a while - is so huge that the game feels fresh. I really love the way all the characters look and the backgrounds are amazing as well. I just hope that they will release more of both. I am a sucker for female X-Men characters so Jean Grey/Phoenix is my favorite so far. I do miss the sweet, sweet Rogue however...

This game should have contained 100 characters on the get go.

Review - Battle: Los Angeles

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
Genre: Action
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Haven't I seen this before and wasn't the film pretty darn horrible too? Oh, I have mistaken this movie for the rotten Skyline, which has absolutely no redeeming value. Apparently, Los Angeles is the new "it" location for alien invasion movies. And I always thought that aliens would always try to attack Washington first...

Battle: LA is thankfully a lot more entertaining than that awful movie I mentioned previously whose title should never be referenced ever again in the rest of human history. Suspicious meteor showers are hitting the coastal cities of the world and it wasn't long before alien creatures start to emerge from the ocean to wreak havoc to the surrounding areas. Of course, as the movie title proudly claims, we the viewers only get to the see the bulk of the action with what is happening in good old LA. Instead of focusing on the spoiled and the rich who littered the LA streets, the movie follows a group of marines who are tasked to secure a location and save the civilians along the way. This movie is actually less a sci-fi extravaganza than it is your standard war movie in a wonky setting.

Battle: LA goes for that gritty, realistic feel with its amateurish shaky camera and muted color scheme. Even the action doesn't ramp up until about halfway through and for the most part, you just get to see the marines shouting at each other and shooting randomly at the enemies in low visibility areas. I thought that the first half of the movie was not very interesting and that whole "sergeant who feels like he has to quit from serving because he lost his men in a previous deployment" was just too forced and you can see where the narrative is going when you are first smacked right in the face by that little detail. There is one genuinely emotional moment involving a death however but even that was quickly turned into what seemed to be a five minute long cheesy speech. It's like the movie tried so hard to build up to that one moment and then it quickly changed its mind because perhaps things got a little too serious. One should not expect to find an engrossing storyline when watching this kind of movie but since Battle: LA is not all about the action, the flaw in the writing is ever more present. The special effects in the movie range from "Sci-Fi Channel Special" bad to really good so maybe there was a problem with the budget. The aliens are neither menacing nor original and you never feel like their presence are all that threatening, which is of course a little disappointing.

This movie is mediocre at its best and it is seriously misleading. For a worldwide conflict that it suggested, the movie felt a bit too confined and the moments leading up to the end were a little too clean. It is half military drama, half science fiction, and one great fight sequence that wasn't even the climax. It could have been better with more spectacles involving the death and destruction caused by the invaders but I understand that they wanted to accomplish something a little different here and all I can say is that at least they tried.

RATING: 3 out of 5

Thursday, March 10, 2011

LoL Co-Op: It's Here!

League of Legends players have been eagerly awaiting for the Co-Op versus A.I. feature to be released for the game ever since Riot Games showcased that one epic match last month. Well, it's finally here today and if you have never played this totally free to play game, it's the best time to click here and open up your new summoner account! Though it may seem like it's a time for celebration, this mode is unfortunately not all that it was cracked up to be.

So glad to see this today because I was beginning to think it was all a hoax.

It all has to do with the performance of the bots. They seemed more impressive - though obviously flawed - during the "Rioterz vs. Bots" match-up than they actually are. They still did the same good and bad things they did to the Rioters as I have listed here but they are really easy to fight against. They are not "aware" enough about their opponents' abilities - like Nidalee's deadly Javelin that I was able to line up nicely very often, even when they could see me aiming it at them from a mile away. They do get tricky at late game when they are well farmed  and they are deadly when they group up but other than those things, you can pretty much assure yourself a victory over these bots.

The bots are pretty good at zoning you away from scoring creep kills with their aggression.

Though much improved over the old bots, the fact that this mode is a bit too easy, especially with a team of good players, makes it less fun that I thought it would be. When winning is too easy to achieve, the game does become a bit boring. The new bots were supposed to challenge the players but they don't. Since you lose 25% of the accumulated Influence Points from playing this mode, it's probably best to play it when testing out new champions or when you have a nasty streak of bad luck fighting against real players and you want to feel overpowered for a little bit. New players would certainly benefit from it and it fosters better camaraderie: there's something about fighting against cold-hearted machines that makes your team members a lot more pleasant. Still, it is a nice addition to the game and it is something that I would love to see implemented in Heroes of Newerth. It is of course also very convenient to be placed in a queue to be teamed up with other players to fight against these new bots instead of having to open up a room manually. I sure hope that Riot Games will keep improving upon the A.I. to make them harder to deal with.

The scoreboard from my first co-op play against the bots.
As you can see, the bots got completely owned, scratched, and spit out.

LoL: Super Epic Ban Justification

Pendragon, the Director of Community Relations for League of Legends created a very eye-opening forum thread yesterday that you can check out by clicking here. Just recently, a large number of players have been banned from the game and the thread was created to entertain the first 5 banned players who would like to know specific details on why they were banned. The results brought tears of joy and happiness to my eyes as Pendragon listed specific number of reports and the list of offenses incurred by these 5 "lucky" players. Whenever I encounter nasty people while playing the game, I always take the time to send a report at the end of the match. Since the number of those people seem to never decrease, there are times when I feel defeated about the whole situation and there was a time last month when my soul was a bit crushed as I got stuck with one negative player after another all night long for about 4 - 5 consecutive matches.

Cry moar, griefers... Cry moar!

As I have mentioned in the past, when people start talking down to me, use foul language, or bring up racist sentiments, I don't retaliate - doing so is just a mere entertainment to these kind of people - and I just report the incident when the game ends. This forum thread has reinvigorate my love for both the LoL and Riot Games and it should further encourage others to take action when they encounter similar situations. The reports don't go unnoticed and people who don't abide to the Summoner's Code will be punished. It is interesting that some people thought that it's okay to act rudely to those who don't play the game well: you can read that clearly in one of the banned players' post. Not everyone who play this game - or any other games actually - should be expected to have the same skill level. Performing badly in the game is not punishable but behaving badly will get you in trouble. Thank you Riot Games for really caring about your community!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Calm After the Storm

So I spent around 2 hours last night messing with the character creation for the Storm of Zehir expansion of Neverwinter Nights 2 for the Personal Computer and I must say that the payoff is a bit disappointing. Before I got the game, I knew that the expansion is trying to do something different to the gameplay  by introducing an interactive "overland map" but the implementation of this feature, cool as it may be, is flawed.

A beautiful map... with a deadly secret.

When you leave town in the game, you are presented with the said map and you see one of your characters walking around it - before this, you just have to select different points on the map where you can be transported to. Enemies would then pop up at random and when your character touches them, you can choose to participate in battles. Though I thought it was fun the first several times it happened, things got old rather quickly because the battlefields where the fighting takes place are big and you then have to run to the end of the area to go back to the overland map. The obligatory loading screens before and after these random encounters also don't help alleviate the situation. I really want to play a great western role playing game, not a weirdly conceived JRPG. Fortunately, the regular encounters that can be found while entering explorable areas are still there but that overland map thing just doesn't work for me at all. I really don't want to abandon the characters I have so lovingly created - you never know, I may eventually get used to this new design. Still, it may actually be more fun to go over the original and the Mask of the Betrayer campaigns again instead.

2 Hours of Character Creation!

Is there something terribly wrong with me? I don't think that creating characters for two long freaking hours is that healthy but that was exactly what happened last night during the initial setup of the Storm of Zehir campaign for Neverwinter Nights 2 on the Personal Computer. I got this expansion back in mid-2009 alongside Raiden Fighters Aces for the X-Box 360 so we know what happened there... That 360 game took over and since I was replaying the NWN2 original campaign, the new expansion got lost in the shuffles. So here I am now, trying to get into the game again so that I can experience some of party-based role playing game action to balance out the solo excursions of Two Worlds II since I am holding off on Dragon Age II for a little bit.

Too many choices to make!

As if customizing your personal representation in the game was not a long enough process (it took me roughly close to an  hour or probably more to get my main hero created), the Storm of Zehir expansion wants you to choose three other team members to join your crew before the adventure commences. The game starts you off on a boat where you are accompanying a famed explorer on his way to Samarach and it is here that you have to register your own companions. Granted, there are already pre-made characters available for your choosing and that you don't have to complete a party of four to proceed but settling for those options is just not the same, right? Oh how I regret deleting all of my previous characters when I uninstalled this game. So I subjected myself to the grueling process of actually creating four of my own, complete with their own unique biographies... Like this uh, interesting one for the lovely elf Wizard Angeline Moonqueen:

It was late at night and I was getting a bit horny, what can I say? Gah! A typo!

Apparently, I had too much fun with the process because when I decided to look at the clock, I noticed that I had spent two hours on the whole thing! What made the character creation so complex in this game is that there are too many classes you can choose from and of course it takes some planning to ensure that you have a balanced party. When you started thinking about the Prestige Classes, it gets worse because you want to make sure that you are building your characters carefully to meet their eventual requirements. When a level one character is created in this expansion, he or she is automatically advanced a couple of levels thus forcing you to spend more time customizing the character stats. I really did not mind that I spent too much time on the character creations but I was glad when it was over because now I can finally start my epic journey. In regards to the original question though... I think that there is something wrong with me!

The gang's all here! We are now ready for... The Storm!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

February 2011 Gaming Analysis

The results shown below are of course based on the combined data from the Daily Game Log which should provide a clear indication of a game's usage frequency. Bear in mind that even if a game is played twice or more during a particular day, it would still register as 1 in the Day Count column below. In a sense, "merits" are given based on how often a particular game can make me play it again throughout the entire period of the month on a daily basis. A game that makes a gamer play it over and over again or at least spend a lot of time with it... Isn't that what we mostly want from a great game? I don't think it's really fair to count all the way down to the number of hours played since some games only require a short amount of time to properly serve their purposes.

OVERALL BREAKDOWN:


Total Games Played: 30

It's probably clear by now that it is going to take a miracle to overthrow League of Legends on the Personal Computer from the number one spot of the most played game of the month. There were times when I really didn't feel like playing the game though and that happened when I played with nasty, negative team members. I have learned to ignore rude comments while playing this game but when they happen repeatedly over consecutive games, the desire to continue playing the game is lessen. I still hope that I can complete a team full of good friends to play the game with eventually.

The renewed focus and determination I put forth for Guild Wars on the Personal Computer last month resulted in the game taking the second place slot. Sadly, it didn't last long enough and I ended up playing the game only for a period of nine days. I still have great interest in it but it's going to be hard to get back into the game now that I have started playing other role playing games like Two Worlds II, Sacred II, and even Neverwinter Nights 2 that I just reinstalled today!

The third place went to Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time for the Nintendo DS. My hunger for role playing games last month got projected onto the handheld arena as well. At first, I was going to continue Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story but I then remembeted that I never completed Partners in Time. Not that they are chronological but I prefer that older game anyway in terms of overall fun. Both titles are the best role playing games for the system but I will probably take a break from the series after I completed Partners in Time before going back to Bowser's Inside Story because of the similarity in gameplay.

Best New Game of the Month:
Two Worlds II (Personal Computer)

Unexpectedly Forgotten New Game of the Month:
Dead Space 2 (PlayStation 3)

I Missed You, I Want You Game of the Month:
Radiant Historia (Nintendo DS)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Games Played 02/28/2011 - 03/06/2011

- 02/28/2011 -
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time - NDS

- 03/01/2011 -

- 03/02/2011 -
Crysys 2 Demo - PC
Torchlight - PC

- 03/03/2011 -
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time - NDS

- 03/04/2011 -
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time - NDS

- 03/05/2011 -
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time - NDS

- 03/06/2011 -
Avencast: Rise of the Mage - PC
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time - NDS
Pokémon: SoulSilver Version - NDS
Risen - PC
Tropico 3 - PC
The Witcher - PC